The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 11
Some Political Aspects of Sir Samuel Baker's Expedition
Some Political Aspects of Sir Samuel Baker's Expedition.
Many things have contributed lately to draw attention more than ordinary to the position of Egypt and the intentions and aims of the Khedive, but none more so than the recently published book by Sir Samuel Baker. 'Ismailia' goes over to some extent the same ground as this great traveller's 'Albert N'yanza,' but it has an interest peculiar to itself to which that fascinating book could lay no claim. Sir Samuel went forth on his last journey no longer as a private adventurer taking his life in his hand for the glory of being recorded discoverer of the sources of the Nile, but as a high official of the Egyptian Viceroy backed by an army and bent on conquest. This position puts a meaning on his story and gives his actions an importance which they could not otherwise have possessed; and as reviewers have hitherto touched but slightly upon this side of the subject, I should like to dwell upon it for a little. Ordinary literary criticism of this book we have had enough of, and it has had much well-deserved praise for its style, the vigorous personality it displays, and the keen interest which its author manages to excite and maintain. There is, however, this other aspect of the subject—that which deals with what Sir Samuel did as Baker Pacha, and to this I shall address myself.
It must have been difficult for a reader of Sir Samuel Baker's other books to suppress a feeling of surprise and astonishment on hearing that he had accepted a mission of conquest on behalf of the Viceroy of Egypt. Surely this was a strange conversion—Sir Samuel Baker going to put the heart of Africa under the heel of the Turk! Impossible! Had he not always denounced the Turk with the utmost bitterness as a being incapable of governing, rapacious, and bloodthirsty, quoting with approval the proverb,' The grass never grows in the footsteps of a Turk,' as a sample of the popular feeling about this dominant race? And yet here he was himself one of them, a Turkish official full of zeal for the Egyptian service. He had become Baker Pacha, and was to conquer the whole Nile basin to the dominions of the Khedive. Ah! but he was to put down the slave trade: this is the scroll on his banner; he goes to set the poor aborigines free. Well, that only added to the puzzle; for were not the Mahommedan rulers of Egypt the main cause of that slave trade? The Turks did not themselves kidnap, and so the Arabs kindly did it for them; but the Arabs alone could not have pursued the traffic without strong support. Slave-holding was a necessity in the social life of the Turk race: thus only could menials be procured; the palaces of the Khedive, the houses of his ministers, the bazaars, private dwellings—all swarmed with slaves, with men, women, and children brought from the Upper Nile valleys, from the far African inland. These beings are kept to do degrading work, or for their master's pleasure, or as sources of profit; and as they are apt to die of pulmonary diseases in the climate of Lower Egypt, the supply of these human commodities has to be constant and large. To conquer the great slave countries, therefore, and to bring them under the direct government of the Turk, what was it but to secure this supply? With such a condition of things, it was rather a misnomer to call such a raid with a view to annexation, an page 339 Expedition to suppress the Slave Trade. Sir Samuel Baker went to conquer on behalf of the Mahommedan, the most inveterate slaveholder in the world. In doing so he might lessen the brutalities of a miserable traffic, but stop that traffic he could not. If he imagined that he could, he ought to have known Egypt better.
This uncomfortable feeling, both as to the character of the mission Sir Samuel undertook, and as to his own judgment in accepting and conducting it, does not grow smaller as one reads the vigorous history in which, now that his work is done, Sir Samuel tells what he did and how he fared. Sometimes, as when he describes the solemn ceremony of 'annexing' a piece of territory with flag flying, troop reviewing, and gun firing, the sensation produced in the reader's mind is one bordering on the comical, but mostly this story makes one sad. We ask continually what good has Sir Samuel Baker done by all this expenditure of energy and resolution—this marching, fighting, slave-boat capturing, haranguing, and wrangling on the Upper Nile? He has brought the country little or no nearer civilisation; passing through it as he did much like a meteor in the midnight sky, he has left the darkness seemingly greater than he found it. Hatred from the slave-dealers; and amongst the miserable tribes, fear that these dealers would know how to utilise to their own profit the disorganisation produced when the 'conqueror's' back was turned—these effects he produced plentifully; but not a score of such expeditions as his under the auspices of the Turk could put slave-hunting down. The constant wrath with which he alludes to the doings of his archenemy, the prince of Arab slave-hunters, Aboo Saood, is itself a confession of his impotence to effect the purpose for which he ostensibly came. This wrath becomes almost a wail towards the close of the book. Perhaps this presence of a power other than his own, and, up to a short time before he left the country, as legal as his own—for Aboo Saood carried the licence of the Government—might have opened Sir Samuel's eyes to the true nature of his position, had he not been blinded, as one must, I fear, conclude, by a somewhat inordinate vanity. He denounces the deeds of his enemy, but he does not cease to boast of his own conquests, of the fear he inspired, of the tribes he conquered, and the savages he shot. How could this hater of the Turk in other days become thus his boastful servant, unless from being intoxicated with the part of a puppet Alexander, of despot over lands enough to make an empire? That this 'passion of the mind' in part accounts for it is what I fear and believe. But there were other reasons that influenced him—reasons which show, I think, the nobler side of Sir Samuel Baker's character, and which probably at the outset of his work predominated. They are to be found in the peculiar position of Egypt, and in the idiosyncrasies of her present ruler, rather than in Sir Samuel himself. He was led away, as other Englishmen without number have been led, to think that a new era had dawned in the valley of the Nile.
To understand fully the meaning of this exploit, therefore, and to measure in some degree the consequences of it, both when Sir Samuel Baker headed the advance, and now that the government of the annexed territory has passed into the hands of a man of an altogether different mould, we must turn our attention to Egypt herself. What is her position, what is the character of her ruler and his aims? If these are understood, then it will be easier to sum up, the work of Baker Pacha. It needs page 340 but a glance to show us how peculiar the position of Egypt in the present day is. A flourishing province of a great but decrepit and dying empire, it would long ere now have thrown off its allegiance and gained its independence but for foreign repression. At the time when Mehemet Ali and his energetic an Ibrahim Pacha were pursuing their conquests and threatening speedily to put an end to the Turcish Empire, it did not suit the poliical creed of Western Europe, the ancied interests of France or England, that that empire should be swept away. France and England eyed each other jealously over that strip of territory in the Lower Nile Valley, and by the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and Palmerston was constantly giving check to Louis-Philippe and his ministers in their designs in that quarter. As was then thought too, the only way to keep Russia out of Constantinople was to bolster up the Osmanli on heir rickety throne. And so Western Europe compelled Ibrahim Pacia to turn back from his march through Asia Minor, and made his father give up Syria; and Egypt, forced thus in upon herself, has presented ever since the aspect of a power [unclear: chaing] against its boundaries and seekng a new outlet for its strength. Bared in towards the north, it has struggled southwards, and spread east and west of the Nile valley into Nubia, Kordofan, Darfur, and the Soudan. Under the present rule, especially, claim has been made for Egypt to be recognised as a civilised and civilising power. Mehemet Ali paved the way for the new order of things by destroying the lower of the Mamelukes, and [unclear: estalishing] a despotic irresponsible pwer; but it is to his descendant Ismil Pacha that the credit is due of raking a deliberate and persistent attempt to engraft Western civilsation, usages, institutions, and arts on to the old Mahommedan stock. He has not ceased to seek conquests nor to dream of independence, but he has become imbued with the notion that to be powerful he must do as the French and the English do. Under the motive power of a great ambition, Ismail has followed the policy of the founder of his race without swerving, and is building up an empire within the Nile basin, which, when the territories 'annexed' by Sir Samuel Baker are absorbed and consolidated, promises to resemble one of the mighty empires of old.
The key to the double-lined policy of the present ruler of Egypt is this ambition: this makes him court alike civilisation and extensive dominion. No other province of the Turkish Empire can at all compare with Egypt in the orderliness of the government or in the extent to which it has succeeded in introducing civilising agencies amongst the people. In this respect the conduct of Ismail is in marked contrast to that of his nominal master, the Sultan; and although under him Egypt has become loaded with a vast public debt—as yet almost the chief monument of progress in civilisation that she can show—in nothing is the contrast more marked than in the uses to which Turkey and Egypt have severally put the money that has been lent to them. In the case of Turkey, hardly any of it has been used wisely, and the reckless folly and waste with which, even when a good end was in view, it has been misspent, has made the money borrowed by Turkey a curse to her. But in the case of Egypt hardly any of her borrowings have been laid out on a foolish purpose, although much of it may have been rather wastefully lavished on a good one. Egypt has, for example (according to an able little pamphlet recently printed by an eminent Egyptian banker), paid about seventeen and a half millions on page 341 account of the Suez Canal, which cannot be said to have financially benefited the country as yet, however it may have increased its importance. Some twelve millions have been spent on railways which now yield a considerable return; and other items, including loan-mongers' profits, count up to within some seven millions of the total funded debt of the State. Besides this, however, the Viceroy has himself, in his eagerness to civilise, contracted some rather onerous obligations on the security of his private domains, with results rather disastrous than otherwise. The Daira debt, as it is called, is indeed one of the most sinister features in the financial position of Egypt, and the element of uncertainty which these obligations, as a whole, throw over the future of the country are unquestionably great, especially when taken along with the fact that, however vigorous the administration, it is still personal and Mahommedan, and that, therefore, when the present ruler dies, there is no safeguard whatever against the State's being plunged into an abyss of anarchy and bankruptcy by a foolish or madcap ruler. Still the fact remains that Egypt has been vigorously ruled by Ismail, and has progressed far beyond what Turkey has done. The debts are but an index of his ambition, of his conviction that Egypt has a future, and that to fulfil her destiny she must take a bundle of leaves from the book of the Christian sectaries of the West.
In spite of drawbacks, therefore, Egypt has to be treated as a growing power. She is greater in not a few ways to-day than she was ten years ago, every year becoming more powerful than the empire to which she has been forcibly tied, and, blunders and misrule notwithstanding, promises to be greater still in the future—if Ismail live. That if is, however, all-important.
The problem which the Viceroy has set himself to solve as the means of reaching the goal—of founding a new empire—is a very difficult one, and he cannot be said yet to have solved it. The efforts which he has unceasingly made to mingle Western ideas with the whole mass of Mahommedan ideas and habits have not yet borne any perceptible fruit so far as the population is concerned. In his European leanings and policy of scientific progress he is far ahead of his people, and even of the most of his subordinates. Their ideas are still far from his. But, being absolute, he has produced superficially a great and notable change; for the Oriental bows submissive and silent to the will of his master, and the sight of the great changes he has wrought has bewitched Europeans, and kindled their enthusiasm. These seek to see with the Khedive's eyes, to hope with his hopes, and, believing in his honesty and in his power to do what he will with the country, forget that the very absoluteness of that will increases rather than lessens the danger which the State may be in from probable reaction against his reforms. The Arabs have no parliament, and government by a majority is not an institution that the Khedive has succeeded in establishing; but they contrive at times to have their will by means of the assassin's knife, and to turn the current of politics, mechanically as it were, when a new head gives place to an old.
Europeans, and most of all Englishmen, seem to forget this, however; and it was doubtless a belief in the power of the ruler of Egypt to do as he willed even with slavery, strange though it might seem, that induced Sir Samuel Baker in the first instance so readily to undertake the annexation of territory at discretion to his dominions. Sir Samuel had come page 342 to believe in the Viceroy and in the dominance of the new ideas, and hoped to be the means of helping on the better regime, forgetting that the Viceroy cannot change the natures of his people, nor the habits that date from time immemorial, nor yet the hard tenets of their creed. However absolute he may be, not all his power can stop the traffic in slaves at his Red Sea ports, or even at Cairo, although it does enable him to pave the streets and light them with gas. The work which the Viceroy meant Sir Samuel to do might be good, just as many another scheme of his is noble; but it was a work which could not be accomplished under the existing conditions, and as a mere raid or commission to annex kingdoms the acceptance of the task by the English traveller was a great mistake.
It was a mistake too on the part of the Viceroy to ever think of organising such an expedition, and argued a degree of impatience which hardly consists with breadth of intellect. His cry almost from the outset of it was for returns—revenue; and he has turned round with some "bitterness on the English Pacha since he came back for leading him to so great expense with nothing to show for it. But how could it be otherwise? It will be long before Central Africa can repay the trouble taken—longer still before Egypt obtains any substantial grasp of the country. So far as putting down slavery is concerned, the position taken by Sir Samuel under the Viceroy's protection was from the first singularly anomalous; and unless he were carried away by a rather maudlin philanthropic dream, he was remarkably short-sighted too. The slave systems of Egypt and Turkey will only disappear with the Mahommedan creed. The utmost that can be hoped for from this ambitious scheme is that henceforth the slave trade will be hotter regulated, that the rulers of Egypt will see that the poor blacks are no longer herded together like swine in wretched dhows, or compelled to march wounded, fainting, and dying through weary stretches of desert country, or that the cattle of one tribe are not stolen to pay for the women and children of another. The war between the old institutions and the new ideas in Egypt will become deadly indeed if more than that be attempted.
An expedition of this kind reveals, however, the character and the ambitions of the ruler of Egypt; and the new and peculiar attitude which he has assumed towards his country as civiliser, his passion for European habits, his unremitting desire by all means, but chiefly by European means, to build up the greatness of his country, have in them something that fascinates the mind. We do not wonder that Sir Samuel Baker has been led away by the spectacle, for many more besides him have been induced to believe that here the impossible might be accomplished. In spite of the fact, obvious to those who look on dispassionately, that all which Ismail has done hitherto has had for aim the building of a great Mahommedan power (with whose peculiar constitution Western ideas cannot permanently consort), men will believe that some vital change has been wrought—that the new wine is after all going to be stored in the old bottles without their bursting. But Egypt is being consolidated, her riches eagerly developed, her borders extended beyond what men dreamt of half a generation ago, by English gold largely, and English enterprise, solely in order that Egypt may one day become great as an independent Mussulman power. Nothing is more obvious than that fact: that is the goal of the Khedive's policy as it was of Mehemet Ali's—that the secret of his persistence. More than once he page 343 has sought to set up his throne already, by acting independently of the Sultan, and he has ever, when baulked in that attempt, fallen back on the process of gradually yet steadily cutting the bonds that hold him to his allegiance, and preparing to possess a fleet and an army of his own. At bottom we may safely enough infer the Khedive cares comparatively little for the progress of mankind, as a philanthropist would; but he sees the chance for Egypt in the fall of her superior, and he cares much and deeply that she may not lose that chance. The sceptre is falling from the sick man's grasp, the fire of the old Turk race is dying out in Europe, but a new offshoot of it shall flourish in a new empire on the banks of the Nile.
Hence, by reason of this very ambition, although always pushing onward, eagerly adopting reforms of every material kind, building railways, cotton mills, sugar refineries, canals, doing all that would in his esteem tend to make the people rich, the Khedive dare not break with his people in furtherance of a philanthropist's dream. He knows too well the limits of his power to so run counter to all the thoughts of their hearts and habits of their lives as to follow Sir Samuel Baker in his enthusiasm about suppressing the slave trade; but he was adroit enough to use that enthusiasm for his own ends. How narrow is the range of his reforming spirit is seen well enough in the fact that his heir apparent has had no European education, and can speak no language bat Arabic. The Khedive himself is a true Turk still; and though he may not foresee all the consequences of the changes he is making, looking as he does but to the one object, assuredly his aim is not to subvert the present social order, and to cause himself to be looked upon as the degrader of his co-religionists. But he has thrown a glamour over the minds of Europeans—of Englishmen—so that many miss altogether the real drift of the man's life, and, like Sir Samuel Baker, fondly hope that they are ushering in a new day when they lend all their strength to, and put their own gloss upon, the schemes of the Viceroy. Possibly there may be a vital change working up, but assuredly if it be so, it is because new forces are at work which neither he nor they take much heed of.
The Khedive Ismail, in short, means, before all things, to make Egypt a great modern power, capable of holding its own amongst the nations when the crack of doom comes for the empire of which his country is now nominally but a province; and it is worth while to consider if it seems likely that this able man will succeed in his intention. The question is profoundly interesting, indeed, on far wider grounds than those embraced in the discovery of what false steps Sir Samuel Baker and men like him may have taken; still it has a bearing upon that narrower topic, and is worth some thought in that connection, because Baker, chief amongst others, has given encouragement to a particular policy which must become important to England in certain eventualities.
The spectacle of a revivified Mahommedanism giving life to a new empire in Africa, bringing order and some kind of honesty of government into the wilds of the far inland, teaching the tribes there to reverence authority; of a power able to keep its independence, to open the centre of a great continent to commerce and civilisation, and to hold the key of the East as firmly as it was ever held by the House of Othman at Stamboul, when men thought the centre of the earth lay there—such a spectacle would be a most alluring one on many grounds to the political stu- page 344 dent. But the reality, I fear, even after all that has been done, gives small indication of so glorious a consummation as this. Nowhere that I can discern are signs to be found of a real influx of new life into the race that dominates Egypt, or to the people who make up its 'dim common' population. What reforms have been effected have come, as I have said, all from above, and the life of the people, while it bows to some extent to their imposition, remains essentially the same—idealess, unprogressive, petrified. There is no new force outside the will of Ismail Pacha moving the race to seek a new form of existence; and although it may be that history gives examples of a people elevated at the bidding of an individual endowed with a master-will to some loftier level than they otherwise might have reached, I do not think that this has ever occurred without elements of greatness existing in the people themselves. Abstract all the European element from Egypt, and where are such elements to be found there? The impression distinctly given is that Egypt is a country of the past, a country without a future. The whole fabric hangs by the single thread of the Khedive's will: no 'house of representatives' would dream of standing against him; and should his successor be a man like his predecessor, Said Pacha, ignorant, arbitrary, and cruel, all that Ismail has done would vanish before his personality almost in a day. No empire can be built upon a basis so shifty as that. The work which has been done, granting it one of progress, needs the presence of a ruler who cannot capriciously change things, to keep it from being [unclear: uncone]; and such a safeguard can only be found in institutions which are the expressed will of a whole people, and which the temper of the people shall suffice to conserve. Egypt has not these, and no class amongst her population is capable of giving them to her; so that, looked at in the light of sober fact, there is something almost pathetic in this attempt which the Viceroy is making before our eyes to re-enact the old, old story under strangely new conditions. By means foreign to the nature of the people, often repugnant to their creed, he is trying to raise a new power out of a limb of a perishing empire, but he has no new race to do it with. Looked at in this light—the sober light of facts—the help which enthusiastic Englishmen like Baker give towards the realisation of this dream is a strange phenomenon. What good can they do? What do they really find in Egypt that leads them to be hopeful of the future? Where are the signs to-day that barbarity and misrule are henceforth to end—that subordinates will no longer crash provinces by extortion, as the Soudan has been crushed even since Ismail reigned—that judges will no longer take bribes? What indications are there that a now leaf has been turned over by the priests of one of the bitterest and most exclusive creeds that the world has ever seen—that the bonds of the dead Mahomet are being at last burst asunder, and men coming forth to the light and the free air of heaven? None anywhere. The tide is stemmed a little here and there, European models copied, officials hired, names and fashions adopted; but beneath this varnish the corruption is the same, and will burst out anew under a new master. Leave Egypt alone, give her a new Khedive, ferocious and touched with a little Moslem fanaticism, and the dream which so many seem to dwell on would vanish like a summer cloud. In such an eventuality—quite a probable one—no incentive would press towards this policy more strongly than that afforded by the burden of the debt which Egypt has been saddled with page 345 by cunning project-mongers and money-changers under pretence of helping it on to civilisation and power. It is against the law for a Mahommedan to exact usury, and a Turk might well plead that what it was unlawful for him to take it was wrong in him to pay. To his moral sense there would probably seem nothing wrong in getting rid at one sweep of the whole of the load which Ismail has laid upon the people; nor would he need to go far for an excuse. He might say with colourable justice that his predecessor had been a prey to the designs of financial sharks who led him and his country to ruin. I do not say that a ruler will arise in Egypt who will actually do this; but what should be distinctly borne in mind is that if it be not done, it is not from any change in the nature of the government or the nature of the people giving greater security. The possibility is there; and while it is there, it can only be from pressure applied from without that Egypt can advance to wealth, civilisation, and ultimate independence. In herself the elements of these are altogether wanting.
But this state of perpetual dependence is just the one that gives significance to a political raid like that of Sir Samuel Baker. Egypt has been coming more and more under European influence, and Europeans have so wound themselves about it, that it is theirs more than the Egyptians'. The French have made the Suez Canal, and by so doing placed the country in a position to hold the key of the far East; and as she has no power to hold it herself, some one must see that it is held for her. This greatest step in her advance to importance has thus placed her supremely in the hands of strangers. Egypt has become the prey of 'scientific progress' men, of adventurers, mercantile and others, but most of all it has become essentially subject to the great maritime powers who have interests east of the Red Sea, and to England beyond all others. Our interest in the Canal is not approached by that of any maritime power in the world; and we are consequently compelled by sheer self-interest to keep a close hold over the native rulers of Egypt, to prevent any other powers obtaining the paramount influence there to our hurt. We dared not even allow a private company, such as that of the Suez Canal, to maintain shipping tariffs and tonnage dues inimical to our interests. In the event of a struggle over the partition of the Turkish empire—by no means an unlikely or remote eventuality—England could not allow any of the combatants to lay hold of Egypt; if the neutrality of that country could not be guaranteed, there would be no resource but for her to hold it against all comers at the point of the bayonet. The interests of our Indian empire, of our vast Chinese trade, would not leave us any alternative, and the fact that such a contingency always faces England brings conspicuously into light the weakness of this ambitious tributary State. She could not defend herself nor make her own terms. Even should self-interest induce the contending powers on the continent of Europe and in Asia to sign a compact to hold Egypt neutral, it would not make her strong; the arranging of that compact would be an affair to which Egypt could be no weighty party; her duty would be simply to obey. And there is always a contingency which English statesmen ought to face, and in which action must be prompt—the complete occupation of the country. Still I admit it is not by any means an immediate or pressing contingency; and even did it occur, it would be perfectly compatible with our own safety that Egypt should be permitted to look after its internal affairs itself. We might hold the country so far as it page 346 affected the safety of our shipping, and yet not need to take upon ourselves its government. In order to be compelled to do that also, other causes must be at work.
Now it seems to me that the expedition of Sir Samuel Baker, looked at on its political side, gives just the impulse wanted to place us in the false position of being compelled to rule Egypt as well as hold it neutral during a fight and always. His conduct raises new questions, and, whether he meant it or not, places upon this country new obligations towards Egypt which need not otherwise have been heard of. For our trade with the country, although great, is not much more than a transit trade, which would have been sufficiently protected by holding the ports and the Canal, so that, in any ordinary event, disturbances, unless they arose within the country, should not have made us take upon ourselves its government. But Sir Samuel has done his best to force that government upon us. When he became a Pacha, he could not divest himself of the position of an 'English citizen,' nor did he seek to. He, on the contrary, gloried in his citizenship, and boasted that he had gone forth to put down a great evil as an Englishman; and many, doubtless, will be disposed to say that England, for the honour of the country, must not let his labour be lost. He has interfered in the internal affairs of Egypt nominally as an Egyptian official it is true, but with all the weight of his country's philanthropy loudly proclaimed as at his back; and this knight errantry of his has virtually committed us to the task of suppressing the slave trade in Central Africa. He has implicated us thereby in the affairs of Egypt to an extent that must make action unavoidable should any political cause arise for drawing relations closer between the two States. Nothing stirs popular sympathy more in this country than a good 'cry' about the wrongs of the slave trade, and Sir Samuel has painted these wrongs in so black a light, has vaunted so loudly his own services in sweeping them away, that should it turn out after all that he has done next to nothing, people will tease the Government into attempts on its own account—attempts that may be ill-timed, and that may lead to many troubles. Nay, we have further committed ourselves to the policy this English Pacha inaugurated by suffering a Royal Engineer officer to go and take up his work, so that these civilisers under the wing of Mahomet and the Turks cannot now be allowed to fail. Col. Gordon is not, indeed, going about his task so fiercely as Sir Samuel did, and seems to see that slavery cannot be suppressed by a march through the hunting-grounds of inner Africa. He is indeed pleasing the Khedive much by paying more attention to quieting the country than to subduing it by force of arms—by looking to the main chance, revenue, rather than to the 'annexation' by beat of drum of some tribe's pasture grounds. But, although he works quietly, and probably sees that slave-holding must be tempered rather than abolished, none the less have the language and actions of the 'mighty hunter' who preceded him made the clanger of our ultimate intervention in Egypt over this question a very real one. The Mahommedans will not, we may rest assured, give up their slaves; it was a dream ever to suppose that a mere scamper over the sources of supply would conduce to making them do so, however it might for a moment cause them to shift the source whence they drew their main supply; but people will nevertheless say that they ought to give them up, and that the honour of England is enlisted in the cause of the oppressed page 347 blacks. So we shall have by-and-by to take upon us the government of half a continent to vindicate the wisdom of Sir Samuel Baker. Men will not see that there may be a middle course, and when the question comes up, as come it will, as to who shall be door-keeper at the gate of the East, we shall find, if not sooner, that we, at least, cannot accept the charge without also taking upon us the government of all the Khedive's dominions, Baker's provinces, slave problem and all. Many are the explosive elements that lie around this Eastern question, but the utmost which their catching fire heretofore involved for us was that we should secure the neutrality of Egypt and the freedom of the Canal. We owe it to Sir Samuel's zeal as a servant of the Khedive that it is now also to be laid upon us that when the day comes for us to secure the one we shall also be compelled to see that no slave to be bought or sold, hunted or entrapped, in all the valley of the Nile. That may be a good and noble work to do, but I submit it was not a necessary one for us to tackle in the near future, and that there are worse evils than even slave-hunting, as witness the history of the redskins in America, or the Maoris in New Zealand.
I may be told, indeed, that I have, in saying this, much exaggerated the importance of 'Baker Pacha's' work; that it was merely a passing episode soon to be forgotten. In a country less bound up with our material interests than Egypt it might have been so; but here, I think, the force of what he has done and said can hardly be exaggerated. He has appealed to a popular English craze or superstition with all the vigour of which he is master, and the progress of political events will by-and-by open up the way for that superstition to act upon English statesmen with perhaps irresistible force. I honour Baker for his enthusiasm and his bravery, but I cannot admire his judgment nor believe that by doing as he has done in this episode he has done wisely or well.
A. J. W.